Strategic Weapons: August 19, 1999

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DOE (Department of Energy) Security: DOE secretary Bill Richardson has admitted that the Chinese did acquire information which probably accelerated their nuclear weapons programs. He also discussed steps being taken to stop further problems. Sale of surplus equipment has been suspended until the circumstances related to the sale of a supercomputer which still had classified data in its memory. Employees are going to required to take polygraph tests if they wish to continue to work with nuclear weapons. He stated that there would be just four questions all along the lines of have you ever given information to a sensitive country that you shouldn't have. DOE is working with Air Force to develop techniques to deal with outside hackers. While racial profiling won't be used there will be background checks on foreign scientists from sensitive countries. He also said that DOE has the ability to run background checks on the 100 Chinese nationals working at U.S. national labs. Those background checks are designed to establish if the scientists have any connections with intelligence agencies. The China lab to lab program has been put on hold though pending a review. Given the magnitude of the apparent compromise of key military secrets to China it seems strange that 100 Chinese nationals, not Chinese-Americans, are still working at U.S. labs. Since China is a police state it is far from clear how any background check that said that a given Chinese scientist doesn't have any links to Chinese intelligence could be believed. Statements like this will probably significantly weaken Richardsons credibility on the Hill. --Tom Trinko

 


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